The mosque is central to Islamic life
The mosque is central to Islamic life Israel News Photo: (file)

A new report released Monday by the London-based Center for Social Cohesion reveals that British Muslim students are not far behind their Middle Eastern peers in their social values, especially those who are members of on-campus Islamic societies.

The report, entitled "Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinion," reveals that approximately a third of those surveyed supported the idea that one can kill in the name of religion, a finding that has raised alarm bells.

The Center drew its information from field interviews as well as a YouGov poll of 1,400 students.

"Universities should be places where people of all faiths and backgrounds can come together in an environment of mutual tolerance," said Center director Douglas Murray.

The study also found that 43 percent of Muslim students said they felt that Islam was compatible with secularism.

Among the Muslim students surveyed, 32 percent said killing in the name of religion could be justified. However, almost double that number, 60 percent of those who are active members of Islamic student organizations, supported the idea.

Only 2 percent of non-Muslims felt killing in the name of religion was justified.

The report also showed that the vast majority of students polled – 79 percent – said they respected Jews. Only seven percent said they had "very little or no respect at all" for Jews.

"These findings are deeply alarming," said one of the authors of the report, researcher Hanna Stuart. "Students in higher education are the future leaders of their communities."

She noted, however, that there was a striking difference between the average Muslim and those who join on-campus Islamic groups, who "often hold opinions that are significantly more extreme than those of ordinary Muslim students." 

The director of the center, Douglas Murray, concurred. "It is vital that students and government understand that groups like [the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS)] – who often promote a highly conservative interpretation of Islam – are not representative of all Muslim students. Empowering these groups risks giving an official stamp of approval to extreme forms of Islam," he warned.

The study also found that 40 percent of the students supported introduction of Islamic Sharia law (Islamic religious law) in Britain, as well as significant support for the concept of worldwide Islamic rule.

 A third were in favor of a worldwide caliphate (worldwide Islamic government) based on Sharia law, as opposed to the 58 percent of active members of Islamic student organizations, who supported the idea.

"It is important that pluralist and democratic Muslim voices are encouraged and promoted and that intolerant voices are sidelined. University authorities need to urgently take steps to reduce Islamist influence on campus," said Center director Murray.

Researcher Hannah also noted that the research showed significant numbers of students "appear to hold beliefs which contravene liberal, democratic values. In addition, there are signs of growing religious segregation on campus. These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities."

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